Emory Healthcare shares imaging processes for Ebola patients

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When Emory University Hospital talks about fighting infectious disease, people listen. The Atlanta institution is now sharing lessons learned about radiology’s role in the process earlier this year, when Emory went four-for-four curing patients stricken with Ebola.

In the January edition of the American Journal of Roentgenology, a team led by Emory cardiothoracic radiologist William F. Auffermann, MD, PhD, lay out a detailed plan for x-raying patients carrying potentially lethal infectious diseases.

“Clearly, when considering diseases such as the Ebola virus disease, standard methods do not suffice,” the authors write.

The article presents a protocol specifically focused on using portable computed radiography to obtain chest x-rays. It suggests ways to limit exposure of healthcare workers and imaging equipment, along with methods for corralling viruses within isolation units while decontamination procedures are underway.

The article recommends 10 steps to follow during the x-ray process (“Before entering the patient’s room, the x-ray plate will be bagged and securely taped, then placed in an additional clear bag that is NOT taped”); nine steps in the quarantine anteroom (“The x-ray technologist will don an impervious gown and gloves and move x-ray machine into the anteroom after the arm is covered in plastic wrap”); and eight outside the anteroom (“The resource nurse will obtain 600 mL of water then don gloves and add 300 mL of the disinfectant”).

“There is an opportunity for radiologists to collaborate with clinicians in improving these protocols and developing safe protocols for other modalities,” the authors write, adding that radiology departments and hospitals should consider investing in digital radiography machines to be placed within isolation wards, as well as ultrasound technologies that allow remote, real-time visualization of scans.

“With a new infectious organism comes the need to adjust our protocols to optimize safety and minimize the risk of additional healthcare-related infections,” the Emory team concludes. “It is likely that future infectious disease outbreaks will lead to yet more changes. As our knowledge of Ebola virus disease and other infectious diseases increases, it is hoped that our responses will become increasingly efficient with a steeper learning curve and less loss of life.”

Click here to access the journal article and here for Emory’s full Ebola-preparedness protocols (registration required).